[1 December 2008]
The Accident That Led Me to the World makes charmingly lugubrious folk music, and the first four songs on The Island Gospel, the ambiguously-monikered trio’s sophomore release, are nearly perfect. The banjo anchors the title track even as the rest of the band’s distinctive elements—the vocal harmonies, the bowed upright bass, the clarinet—announce themselves. “Hole of Doubt”, the second song, is practically jaunty compared to the rest of the album, and here the rest of the band really does make way for Raianne Richards’s lovely clarinet. “Life, As An Anchor” features some of the album’s best - and most heartbreaking - lyrics. “I’ve listened enough to your stories / I’ve soaked up every one of your tears / I’ve walked many miles with your boots on my feet,” sings Mark Mandeville, the lead vocalist and songwriter. “Oh, there ain’t much longer to be / oh, life like an anchor is sinking.”
Then comes “Caves”, the fourth track and the best on the album. Quiet, tense, and intricate, “Caves” is at once intricate and spare, and oddly percussive—the bass, plucked this time, and the snapping nylon string guitar give the song a beat that’s lacking elsewhere. And then at the end the music drops out completely, and Richards and Mandeville don’t-quite-harmonize on the ending couplet. It’s mesmerizing. And then everything all falls apart. After the opening salvo the band seems to run out of steam, and as the album wears on the songs get slower and longer, and lose the drive the openers had. The clarinet resurfaces on “One True Word”, the lone standout from the second half of the disc, but everything else just sags.